One year on – update from our Director

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Apr 17, 2020

One year on – update from our Director

Apr 17, 2020

On the first anniversary of NSW Circular, our Director, UNSW Professor Veena Sahajwalla, looks back over the past 12 months and to the future.

NSW Circular is continuing to work hard with stakeholders on a range of initiatives to enhance the development of circular economies in NSW and Australia.

NSW Circular Director, UNSW Professor Veena Sahajwalla, said that while COVID-19 had caused incredible disruption to society, NSW Circular was continuing to get on with its mission, including making new stakeholder connections during this extraordinary time.

Over the course of the past year the Network has been understanding the needs of stakeholders and connecting with them in an ongoing basis to help identify and bring solutions to the challenges they face.

“The coronavirus is a huge challenge and for NSW Circular we are as committed as ever to fostering a more sustainable approach to the use of waste resources in manufacturing and the creation of greater prosperity and value from materials that often end up in landfill or in stockpiles,” Veena said.

Grass roots action

“I almost can’t believe it was in April last year we held our first event, very shortly after it was announced by the NSW Government that our bid to run the NSW Circular Economy Innovation Network was successful. We worked really hard from that very first day, doing a lot of grass roots connectivity, collaboration and communication.

“And despite the disruptions of the coronavirus, we are moving full steam ahead with our work and I am pleased to say I have been blown away by the tremendous work that so many organisations, community groups, industries, and individuals are doing to address the long term challenges of waste and the circular economy.”

Veena said it had been an absolute privilege to see how the NSW Circular had enabled wider engagement and helped scale positive impacts since its inception just a year ago.

Bringing together people and organisations to engage and connect through a variety of forums, such as workshops and events which are now going online, and the NSW Circular pilot projects program along with a strong supply of relevant information via www.nswcircular.org, has delivered some excellent results and solutions.

The pilot projects have been carefully selected to serve as working examples to inform the wider community and internal stakeholders of the value NSW Circular can provide to the community. The projects have also been strategically selected to work across a wide variety of waste materials and stakeholder categories.

“We have seen our pilot projects galvanising the community and attracting support from a variety of businesses, institutes and councils,” Veena said.

“The first one I’d like to mention is the Mirvac pilot project, our initial project. Working with such a big yet nimble business resulted in helping them to achieve greater sustainability in one of their biggest projects as a showcase for future development projects. This is likely to lead on to more projects with them and we are continuing to talk about that.”

Veena was particularly complimentary of the many local councils she and NSW Circular have been engaging with through workshops, pilot projects and other forums.

This engagement led to a pilot project with NSW’s smallest local government, Hunter Hill Council, to help them include circular economy concepts, products and displays in a new “pop up” library.

More pilot projects coming

Another involves MidCoast Council which is leading the way on developing circular economy solutions for challenging agricultural waste, while another project that is starting up involves Riverina Eastern Regional Organisation of Councils (REROC) and New England Solar Power who are looking into tackling a future serious problem waste, end-of-life solar panels.

Veena said while some pilot projects are still in their early stages, she was excitedly looking forward to the future where the projects are able to show tremendous promise to solve some of society’s complex recycling challenges.

She recalled how at the official launch of NSW Circular in October 2019, high expectations were set from the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes, and the network’s funder, the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, who said NSW already has a lot of very good science and technology but a gap for NSW Circular to address was getting that out to industry and stakeholders.

While COVID-19 has resulted in a lot of refocus on manufacturing and innovation, NSW Circular has moved quickly to be in discussions with various stakeholders about how technology transfer can be achieved as we pivot to meet the changing needs of society.

“Technology transfer like Hugh talked about at the launch of NSW Circular has been underway, and we’ve shown that with Mirvac and other projects, and how we’ve been able to do that at speed,” Veena said.

Coronavirus pivot

“Not only have we shown how quickly we can help stakeholders meet new and even rapidly emerging needs, we have been doing it by working under the radar, and in relation to the coronavirus, too, with different stakeholders across industry, researchers and government agencies.

“It has been an incredible first year for NSW Circular, but there is much to do and we are moving even more quickly now to help foster and develop a circular economy, technology transfer, new supply chains and ultimately to develop greater prosperity through social, economic and environmental benefits for our State.”

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